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South African drug smuggler appeals sentence

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The South African man was arrested in 2017 for smuggling 0.5kg of cocaine from Brazil. Photo supplied

South African drug smuggler appeals sentence

The Court of Appeal on Thursday heard the appeal of a South African man involved in trafficking more than 0.5kg of cocaine from Brazil to Phnom Penh.

The man had swallowed the drugs before departing Brazil and was arrested at the Phnom Penh International Airport in September 2017 before being sentenced to life imprisonment by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

During his hearing at the Appeal Court, Blignaut Chan, 27, told a judge through an interpreter that he had been hired by Au Stin, also a South African man, to swallow about 50 pills filled with cocaine. Chan said it took him an hour and a half to swallow all of the pills.

Chan added that the fee for this service was $3,000. After he swallowed the drugs, he travelled from Brazil to Cambodia via Dubai. Customs officials at the Dubai International Airport did not detect the hidden drugs and Chan arrived at the Phnom Penh International Airport on the night of September 12, 2017.

He said everything was arranged by Stin. Stin told him that when he arrived in Cambodia, he had to stay in a hotel, where a Thai woman would pick up the cocaine and transport it to Thailand. But the plan was foiled when authorities caught him.

“Initially, authorities at the Phnom Penh International Airport checked my suitcase and found no drugs. But maybe they were suspicious, so they called me for a scan and found drugs,” Chan said.

I knew in advance that I swallowed drugs illegally in Brazil. But I had no money, so I agreed to work for them. I would like the court to reduce my sentence,” he said.

Prosecutor Lim Sokuntha said the accused was detained at the Phnom Penh International Airport with 759.95g of cocaine. Drug trafficking crimes involving 70g or more are punishable by 20 years to life in prison.

Sokuntha concluded that the accused was a first-time offender, admitted to his guilt and cooperated with authorities.

“I think [the court] sentenced him too severely, so please let the presiding judge reduce his sentence,” he said.

Defence lawyer Nou Chantha said his client confessed immediately to the crime and had been honest throughout the whole trial process.

“As for the statement of the prosecutor, I agree with this request to reduce his [Cham’s] sentence,” Chantha said.

The court’s ruling is scheduled to be announced on November 3.

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